Zafar Aafaq | Clarion India
NEW DELHI — India saw as many as 135 hate crimes, including three murders, against Christians in the first half of 2020.
According to a new report published by a New Delhi-based Christian Organisation, Evangelical Fellowship of India, the incidents included cases of lynching, community ostracization and concerted efforts to stop worship and gospel-sharing.
The report highlights the case of lynching and dismembering of a 14-year-old Christian boy who was allegedly crushed to death with a stone by a group of people in Odisha’s Kenduguda village in Malkangiri district on 4 June. They chopped the body into pieces and buried it in several places.
In the FIR, the police noted that the victim and his family father had adopted Christianity three years ago and since then, villagers had been harassing them. Christians in this village have been facing many threats and are being continually harassed by religious fanatics, Pastor Kosha Mosaki said.
“The boy was earlier attacked in February. I have made four complaints at the Malkangiri police Station regarding these attacks,” he pointed out.
Most of the incidents happened in March (33) followed by February (29). The least number of incidents were reported in May (10) when India was under the coronavirus lockdown. As lockdown eased off, the graph showed an upward trend with June witnessing 21 cases of hate crimes against the minority community.
According to the report, the situation has worsened as there is “absolute sense of impunity generated in the administrative apparatus of India by the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, and the consequent absence of civil society on the streets and in courts.
At least 38 out of 135 incidents were threats and harassments while there were also 26 cases of physical violence. In one instance, a mob set fire to a church while two churches were demolished in separate incidents.
According to the report, five Christians were arrested in different cases over communal incidents while 21 people were “falsely accused or arrested”.
The report highlights the recent infamous incident of custodial death of father and son in a police station in a brutal manner in Tamil Nadu and alleged that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was behind it.
“The horrendous custodial torture and murder of two Christians of the Nadar community by policemen backing RSS elements in a rival community, is traced to caste supremacist attitudes in villages and their linkages with political elements.”
Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state ruled by Yogi Adityanath, the report said, topped the persecution scale with 32 cases of hate crimes. Uttar Pradesh is followed by Chhattisgarh with 24 incidents.
In Chhattisgarh, the rise is attributed to Christians now more willing to report violence. “In the Bastar region there had been so far a blanket of fear of both underground militant Maoist forces and the armoured police,” the report says.
The state saw six documented cases of targeted violence against Christians just in April 2020 despite the national lockdown being in place. Christians were summoned to village meetings when they refused to participate in religious rituals that violate their conscience.
In three separate incidents in Bastar and Dantewada districts on May 5, May 7 and May 18, Christians faced stiff opposition to bury their dead. They were told that since they had not followed village religious rituals, they would not be allowed to perform the last rites. There have been 15 such incidents in these districts since 2019.
In the past few years, several states passed laws prohibiting conversion as Hindu nationalists accuse missionaries of converting people forcibly. But leaders of minority communities see an element of hypocrisy in the implementation of these laws. They say Hindutva groups have been given a free hand to go about their business as they have started a new narrative of ‘ghar wapsi’, according to which, all Muslim and Christians in India were originally Hindus and they should return to Hinduism.
Ever since the ultra-nationalist BJP assumed power in 2014 under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India has seen a sharp rightward turn. Hate and mob violence against Muslims have increased manifold.
The report recommended that the government should enact a comprehensive national legislation against targeted and communal violence and enforce rule of law and arrest members of groups promoting sectarian hate, violence and involvement in pre-orchestrated programs of levelling false accusations of conversions upon the Christian priests and missionaries.